OBITUARY

Dr. Harry Lee Eskew

July 2, 1936November 29, 2020

Harry Lee Eskew joined the heavenly chorus on Advent Sunday, November 29, 2020. He will be greatly missed by his loving wife of 55 years, Margaret, his devoted children, Timothy and Judith, and countless family and friends whose lives he touched.

A master gardener, Harry had a great reverence for nature. As a teenager, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout and was chosen to attend the international Boy Scout Jamboree on the west coast. As an adult, his passion for human rights took him to Baton Rouge, Louisiana with Sister Helen Préjean in protest of the administration of the death penalty. Harry served on the board of Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, where he also edited a newsletter that was later to become "The Habitat Hammer." In Macon, he served as a deacon and led an English language program for international students for several years at the FBC of Christ and helped create the community garden at Centenary Church.

Harry’s enthusiasm for travel to see “God’s beautiful world” brought him to many corners of the world, including China, Russia, and North Korea with the Sons of Jubal, the Georgia Baptist singing group composed mainly of church musicians.

Harry was born July 2, 1936 in Spartanburg, South Carolina to Robert Lee Eskew and Edith Toccoa Callahan. He graduated from Furman University in Greenville with a B.A. in music, from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Sacred Music with a Master of Sacred Music, and from Tulane with a Ph.D. in musicology under the mentorship of Gilbert Chase.

Harry taught music history and hymnology at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), where he instilled a love of all things related to hymns and hymn singing. Over an extensive career of thirty-six years, Harry always emphasized the spiritual aspects of the texts for public worship and private devotion. Within the larger context of hymnology, his specialty was shape-note singing, particularly the life and work of William Walker, compiler of the renowned "Southern Harmony."

Harry’s best-known work, co-authored with long-time colleague and friend Hugh McElrath, is the hymnology textbook "Sing with Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Hymnology" (1980, 1995, 2012) widely used around the world. He also co-authored with fellow hymnologists David Music and Paul Richardson, "Singing Baptists: Studies in Baptist Hymnody in America." During his lifetime he published well over one hundred articles, essays, and entries in reference works and delivered lectures at professional meetings in North America and Europe.

A long-time member of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, Harry Eskew served as editor of its journal "The Hymn" for eight years. He was named a Fellow of the Society, and the Society’s research fund is named in honor of him and Hugh McElrath. Several of his former students, colleagues, and friends published a "Festschrift" in his honor, "Hymnology in the Service of the Church."

A lifelong Baptist, Harry grew up in the Southside Baptist Church of Spartanburg and was a longtime member and deacon at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Upon moving to Macon, he joined First Baptist Church of Christ. He served several Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches as a Minister of Music alongside his academic career.

Harry is preceded in death by his parents and his brother-in-law Charles Massey. He is survived by his beloved wife Dr. Margaret Eskew, son Timothy Eskew, daughter Judith Thorne (Andrew), grandchildren Madeleine and Matthew Thorne, his brother Richard Eskew (Jane), sister Sherrill Eskew Massey, nephew Dr. Andrew Eskew (Melanie), nieces Julia Eskew (Rita) and Elise Eskew (Steve), and nine great nephews and nieces.

A private memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on Saturday, December 5, at 3 o'clock in Newton Chapel, on the Mercer University Campus, led by Rev. Scott Dickison and Rev. Richard S. Eskew. The memorial service will be live streamed on First Baptist Church of Christ's YouTube channel, available at https://youtu.be/ypGZek7Ahlw .

Visit www.snowsmacon.com to express condolences.

Arrangements entrusted to Snow's Memorial Chapel, Cherry Street.

  • FAMILY

  • Robert Lee Eskew, Father (deceased)
  • Edith Toccoa Callahan Eskew, Mother (deceased)
  • Charles Massey, Brother In Law (deceased)
  • Dr. Margaret Hodges Eskew, Wife
  • Timothy Eskew, Son
  • Judith Eskew Thorne (Andrew), Daughter
  • Madeleine Thorne, Grandchild
  • Matthew Thorne, Grandchild
  • Richard Eskew (Jane), Brother
  • Sherrill Eskew Massey, Sister
  • Dr. Andrew Eskew (Melanie), Nephew
  • Julia Eskew (Rita), Niece
  • Elise Eskew (Steve), Niece
  • Nine Great Nieces and Nephews

Services

  • Private Memorial Service

    Saturday, December 5, 2020

    VIEW VIDEO

Memories

Dr. Harry Lee Eskew

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
Justin Caverlee

December 21, 2020

Playing drums since I was twelve, I always talked about music. Years ago I spent time at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Knowing I am a musician, everybody would drop this man's name: Dr. Harry Eskew, and tell me he was the Dean of Music there. They talked of him reverently; he left an eternal impression with them. I lost my Dad 13 years ago and I still miss him. Knowing what the family is going through, I send my deepest love and condolences. Grief won't last forever, his legacy will.

Jerry Neely

December 8, 2020

I was a student of Harry at New Orleans Seminary. He instilled a deep appreciation and love for hymns in the hearts of many Ministers of Music. Harry introduced me to Mexican food in New Orleans. Thank you, Harry, professor and friend.

Timothy Eskew

December 7, 2020

My memory is lifelong as his son. My father had no inhibitions when it came to meeting new people. When I was five, we walked down the street to invite a neighbor, the first black family to move onto this street, to bring his sons with us to go pick mulberries a few blocks away. He loved the outdoors and kept an organic garden most of the year. I understand his motives as an overwhelming desire to help. This very pious man was also very liberal with his views and actions. Had he not dedicated his life to church music and music history, he would have been a great salesman. We adore our parents. We also question and judge them before we offer forgiveness. The rites are no different for me. We must escape the gravity of our own desires to see the unconditional love of a great parent. My love for my father has not changed with his passing. A life of expectations and short, frequent segues have been brought to peace. A life well lived indeed. Thanks Vati!!!

Don McGouirk

December 6, 2020

Harry embodied the attributes of Christian life. He was humble, caring and involved. He was a champion of people and ideas that may have needed a little "championship". He was kind and gentle. I particularly enjoyed the background of the hymns and the people who wrote them he gave us at First Baptist Church of Christ during Wednesday night hymn time. My life became richer by knowing Harry Eskew.

Margaret Eskew

December 6, 2020

I want to thank you for posting your remembrances of my husband of almost fifty-five years. Your comments are sustaining as we try to imagine life without him. I tried for two nights to write his obituary with no word emerging on the screen. I called Dr. Paul Powell, and he graciously wrote the backbone of the obituary. Our daughter Judith Thorne arrived in Macon and took over from there. Drs. Terry York, Becky Lombard, and Joel Reed added to the obituary. However, your comments fill in the holes. In our haste and in an effort to be concise, we left out a lot of important events.

I apologize for the streaming link not working for those who wanted to participate in Harry's memorial service, Here is a link to Dr. Terry York's comments on behalf of Harry's students:
https://baylor.box.com/s/8vf78w6ksvbq9s39755v0aistt1y85he
You
will need to copy the link and paste it in your browser. Thanks.
Margaret

Deanna Hartley

December 6, 2020

Margaret, I know you will miss Harry and your life will be so different. I enjoyed being your friend in New Orleans and knowing more about you through Doris. You will be in my prayers as you face the days ahead.

Kadar & Kim Jones

December 6, 2020

I remember using Dr. Eskew's text "Sing with Understanding" in my Master's degree at SBTS. It instilled in me a tremendous love for the study of hymnology. I am so thankful that, many years later, I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Eskew personally. When he came to Macon, he took the initiative to reach out to me because I was a minister of music in a local Baptist church. I am so glad he did! He became a trusted mentor and advisor, a wonderful encourager, and most of all, a cherished friend. My wife and I will always remember fondly how he took an interest in her nephew when he came to Mercer from Korea to spend a year studying English with Margaret. Harry, along with Loyd Landrum, would often take Myoung Joo to lunch and help him practice his conversational English. Later, when I became involved at Centenary UMC, I discovered that Harry was a consistent supporter and attendee of our Sunday morning Breakfast Community ministry to the homeless. Harry had a love for people and a genuine desire to get to know them and encourage them. My wife and I are also happy that we have come to know and cherish our friendship with his wife, "Ms. Margaret". We extend to her our love and deepest sympathy as well as our prayers for peace and strength during these difficult days.

Sabry and Yvonne Gabriel

December 5, 2020

Dear Margaret,

We have known Harry for 20 years. We enjoyed the vegetables, which he always generously shared from his raised vegetable beds in the courtyard. He was always happy and welcoming. We will miss him.
Our prayers for you and the family. We are here for you.

Rod & Ida Farah

December 4, 2020

Dearest Margaret and family,
Ida and I are saddened to read of Harry’s passing. In January of 2020, Ida and I resolved that we’d visit in Macon and Atlanta to spend time with you then on to Mississippi to visit friends there. Well we all know how that didn’t happen! How precious is time and friendship!
We hope you know how much we love you all. Your friendship over the years is etched in our hearts. May Harry’s Memory be Eternal and may our good and Gracious Lord grant that His peace be upon you all....

Merry Toups

December 4, 2020

It was wonderful getting to know Harry and Margaret during their many years in New Orleans at St. Charles Avenue Baptist. I have fond memories of singing in the choir during one of the times when Harry was interim choir director. His kindness and good nature were always abundant, and Margaret made sure there were always good times! Sending loving thoughts to Margaret, Judith, Timothy and all the family.

Merry

FROM THE FAMILY

Biography

A master gardener, Harry had a great reverence for nature. As a teenager, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout and was chosen to attend the international Boy Scout Jamboree on the west coast. As an adult, his passion for human rights took him to Baton Rouge, Louisiana with Sister Helen Préjean in protest of the administration of the death penalty. Harry served on the board of Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, where he also edited a newsletter that was later to become The Habitat Hammer. In Macon, he served as a deacon and led an English language program for international students for several years at the FBC of Christ and helped create the community garden at Centenary Church.
Harry’s enthusiasm for travel to see “God’s beautiful world” brought him to many corners of the world, including China, Russia, and North Korea with the Sons of Jubal, the Georgia Baptist singing group composed mainly of church musicians.
Harry was born July 2, 1936 in Spartanburg, South Carolina to Robert Lee Eskew and Edith Toccoa Callahan. He graduated from Furman University in Greenville with a B.A. in music, from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Sacred Music with a Master of Sacred Music, and from Tulane with a Ph.D. in musicology under the mentorship of Gilbert Chase.
Harry taught music history and hymnology at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), where he instilled a love of all things related to hymns and hymn singing. Over an extensive career of thirty-six years, Harry always emphasized the spiritual aspects of the texts for public worship and private devotion. Within the larger context of hymnology, his specialty was shape-note singing, particularly the life and work of William Walker, compiler of the renowned Southern Harmony.
Harry’s best-known work, co-authored with long-time colleague and friend Hugh McElrath, is the hymnology textbook Sing with Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Hymnology (1980, 1995, 2012) widely used around the world. He also co-authored with fellow hymnologists David Music and Paul Richardson, Singing Baptists: Studies in Baptist Hymnody in America. During his lifetime he published well over one hundred articles, essays, and entries in reference works and delivered lectures at professional meetings in North America and Europe.
A long-time member of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, Harry Eskew served as editor of its journal The Hymn for eight years. He was named a Fellow of the Society, and the Society’s research fund is named in honor of him and Hugh McElrath. Several of his former students, colleagues, and friends published a Festschrift in his honor, Hymnology in the Service of the Church.
A lifelong Baptist, Harry grew up in the Southside Baptist Church of Spartanburg and was a longtime member and deacon at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Upon moving to Macon, he joined First Baptist Church of Christ. He served several Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches as a Minister of Music alongside his academic career.